A Pet May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

Whether or not to bring home a pet is a big decision, especially for seniors. Consider this: an animal companion may be just what the doctor ordered!

Pets can improve mental and physical health

“Why in heaven’s name would I want to get a dog at this stage of the game?” quipped 78-year-old Anne McQuaid, when her doctor made the suggestion during a check-up. Anne’s doctor gave her several sound reasons. In the first place, it would reduce her blood pressure by relieving stress and helping her stay active. In addition, it would ease loneliness and depression.

Anne gave her physician’s recommendation a lot of thought. She had to admit that she did sometimes feel lonely and certainly could use more exercise! Two days later, Anne visited her local animal shelter where she promptly fell in love with an 8-year-old miniature poodle named Suzy. Suzy was perfect: fully housetrained, out of the puppy stage, well-mannered, and affectionate. In no time at all, Suzy adjusted to her new home and all of the love and attention Anne gives her. Why, Suzy even sleeps next to Anne on a pillow she calls her “bed”!

Together, Anne and Suzy have established a routine of going for long walks several times a day. They have met lots of friends, both human and canine! Anne says that she wakes up smiling just knowing that Suzy is there with her. She also loves shopping for treats for her new little girl and snuggling up to watch TV together. Anne chuckles at the fact that Suzy notices animals on the TV screen and barks at them! Anne has since called her doctor to thank her and shared that she is happier and has already lost five pounds from all their walks together!

It turns out that animal companions can be just what the doctor ordered. They can help improve senior’s cardiovascular health, blood pressure, exercise, weight control, sleep patterns, mood, and sense of purpose.

Is getting a pet the right choice?

Adopting a pet shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision. For example, a senior thinking about getting a pet might want to consider:

  • Am I healthy enough to take care of a pet?
  • What kind of pet would best suit my capabilities? If ambulation is an issue, a frisky dog that needs brisk walks may not be the best choice.
  • Should I look for a newborn or an adoptee? Puppies and kittens acquired may outlive a senior. In that event, who would care for the pet?
  • How much can I afford for care and feeding? The cost of vet services, food, grooming, and, yes, toys, can add up quickly.

Branchlands is for pet lovers

Branchlands resident Martha with her pet dog in front of The Manor House
Martha taking Liza for a walk around The Manor House

Many Branchlands residents share their lives with animal companions. Martha LecLere is a good example. Martha has always loved having pets. Over the years, Martha and her husband, Roger, shared their life and their home with five children and many dogs: Bogey, Gus and Tyler, Luke and Harry, and Charley. “Luke and Harry were Newfies who came out of the creek below us,” says Martha. “Gus, Tyler and Bogey were German Shepherds. When my husband found Charley, he was a puppy tossed from a truck. He was soaked – it was during Hurricane Charley, hence the name!”

After Roger passed away in 2007, Martha adopted Kiki, a Siamese cat, and, later, Liza, a cockapoo. All three are now fast friends. Liza is now blind and quite deaf. As a result, Martha says that she is learning to be a good Seeing Eye person as together they get their daily dose of exercise. Above all, Liza and Kiki have brought unconditional love and companionship to Martha’s life. “Having a dog in a senior living community introduces you to everyone and almost everyone loves dogs!” says Martha.

Consequently, for Martha and so many of us at Branchlands, the bumper sticker “Who rescued who” is so true!

Branchlands welcomes pets in our independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities. At Linden House Assisted Living and Memory Care, we offer custodial pet care, including assistance feeding, walking, and arranging grooming and vet appointments. Learn more about pet-friendly senior living at Branchlands or call to make an appointment for a tour.